What I’m Working On Now
I like to have several things cooking at once. All are child’s-eye-view stories: one about an explorer of the southeast United States who collected plants to ship to England before the Revolutionary War, one on an American musician and his young piano tuner during the Civil War, another about a traveling woman photographer who made her living taking pictures of German farm families in the Texas Hill country. She traveled by pony cart and had to develop her pictures in farmhouse closets or in the nearest creek.
I’m curious about America in the 18th and 19th centuries and what useful things those people could tell us today. (Discoveries get lost all the time, and we need historians to keep digging them up again.) Most of all, I want to know how children long ago saw the world.
Some people, and some editors, say children don’t like history or stories from the past. They prefer fantasy about the future. But we are living in what was once someone else’s future. So the question kept nagging me: Wouldn’t children like history as much as I do if children from long ago told that history? That’s when I started looking for real diaries, or letters, or historic events where children took part and could tell the story for the rest of us. My favorite subject is an undernoticed American hero from the past, as described by a real child who was there.